Six weeks ago, I made cryptic allusions to ‘stuff’ and vague promises of an explanation. Today I am going to try to make good on that promise. I am going to try to keep this limited to basic facts because there is still much to this ‘stuff’ that is painful, that I feel confused about, or that I just don't feel comfortable writing about in public. Still, I think it is important to get these few facts out to clarify some things for friends and other interested parties who may be puzzled about my behavior, especially in the last 3 months or so. In addition, until I can these things out into the open, I think I am going to have a hard time moving forward with many things in my life, including this blog (which I do have hopes of returning to at least it's former level of irregular activity). So, then:
1. I suffer from chronic depression
I was diagnosed with depression about 5½ years ago, when I was in the midst of a severe depressive episode brought on by various stressors, but it seems likely in retrospect that my history of depression goes back considerably further than that. With the help of my family, therapy, and medication, I was able to survive that particular episode and work myself back to something approaching normal functioning, but it has been and remains a struggle. Until now, outside of a very small circle of friends, I have kept my depression a secret, or at least not acknowledged it publicly. I did this in part because it seemed like a private matter and in part because I feared the public stigma attached to mental illness (a stigma that also prevented me from recognizing my own depression and seeking treatment until it was very nearly too late). In retrospect, I think that secrecy was a mistake. I have intentions of being more open about my depression in general and about writing about it on this blog in particular. At the very least, it will save me the effort of having to pretend I am not depressed (an effort that has been pretty draining for me in the past), and I have hopes that writing about my depression in public will help me think through and come to grips with how I deal with it in my day-to-day life.
2. I am getting divorced
This follows more or less directly from the fact of my depression, which has put tremendous strain on my marriage over the years. My feelings about this divorce are a chaotic tangle of guilt, sadness, anger, frustration and flat-out incomprehension. I am not even remotely ready to discuss these publicly, and given that there are other people involved, I'm not sure that I'll ever be inclined to reveal much about it here. I will say that the logistical details of the separation have been handled amicably, and that this is nevertheless the most painful thing I have ever had to deal with. As my therapists have pointed out, a divorce can be every bit as traumatic as a death, with the added complication of providing none of the closure.
3. I have moved back to New Jersey
Once the decision to divorce was made, there was essentially nothing to keep me in Kentucky. My work and my depression were locked in a vicious circle (frustration with work fueled my depression which then interfered with my work, leaving me even more frustrated...), and our tiny university-centered community did not seem to offer any alternatives for taking my life in a new direction. Also, inasmuch as my social circle there was inextricably tied up with the family life I was exiting, I had little available to me as a support system, which is pretty much essential for any depressive, and which I was certain I would need to rely on heavily as I worked through the additional trauma of the divorce.
So back in February, I resigned from my job, packed up a U-haul, and transported myself to my parents’ house in South Jersey (yes, I am an unemployed, 40-something Internet nerd living with his parents. At least I am living in an attic and not the basement). From here, I am trying to make some sense of what has happened and pick up the pieces of my life. Again, I am nowhere near achieving that, but I have managed to make some positive steps, including resuming active treatment for my depression, resuming some activities I have found enjoyable in the past, and taking some very preliminary steps toward resuming some kind of professional life. I still have plenty of bad days, and almost everything is up in the air right now, but I am safe and I have support, and maybe that's as good a starting point as anyone can ask for.
The worst thing about moving away has been being separated from my children. Cellphones and Skype have helped bridge that gap somewhat, and they flew up to visit during their spring break in March. In a couple weeks, I will drive down to Kentucky and visit with them as well. Such cobbled-together interactions will have to suffice for the time being. Perhaps my biggest regret in all of this is the impact it is having on their lives, although to be honest, they have displayed more resilience and adaptability in handling all the changes we have thrown at them than I have.
And that brings us just about up to date. Thank you, The Internet, for listening. It feels good to get all this off my chest. Hopefully, it will free me up to write some less self-pitying drivel in the near future.